‘Be creative…now!’ ‘Solve a problem…now!’ Ever had that pressure
put on you? I know I have. One time that springs to mind was a
grueling 2 day entry-test to get into an Industrial Design Degree
programme at Lund University. I had a really bad cold, and not a lot
of creative experience or confidence behind me. It was horrid. Chuck
a load of wanna-be designers in a room and give them a load of briefs
(design briefs not designer briefs!!) and watch them sweat! I had a
fever and the shakes and had to present my work to a panel, who must
have thought I was a nervous wreck or severely hungover, or had
Parkinson’s Disease until I pointed out that I was in fact suffering
from a nasty nasty cold. I got a lot of praise during that panel
interview…sadly not for my outstanding work, but for my apparent
good command of the Swedish language. I didn’t get in. The universe
knows best anyway, as a few months later during another degree
programme I discovered my love for graphic design, which I think is
far more instant, satisfying and accessible, and suits me much
better. πŸ™‚

You might think to yourself that if I am moaning about the pressure
of coming up with designs on the spot then I am not suited to the
modern work place. And I will quite agree with you. I mean I can
certainly perform under pressure and am always pretty creative, but I
have to say that my best ideas do not come when plonked in front of a
computer and prodded with a stick to perform.

My most creative ideas come when I am not at a desk, and when I am
not particularly thinking about the problem. I am sure we have all
heard that the great thinkers came up with their revolutionary
theories when doing other things than working. Mine often come to me
when I am walking in nature or working out. In the days when I used
to be partial to more than a drink or two I would find that the
delicious, barely awake stage of waking up the morning after (when
still slightly intoxicated) was an amazingly creative time. It was
during one such morning when I lay in bed just 25% awake in a dreamy
state yet with my mind going to crazy, alcohol induced places that I
came up with the cheeky, but much appreciated, slogan for a
back-mounted vacuum cleaner with a built-in massage function and MP3
player that I was working on for a group project. β€œVac-Pac:
Pleasure from behind!”

In fact I am sometimes tempted to get ridiculously drunk just to
experience that wonderfully creative window of time the next day. But
now that I am a little older – and therefore far less tolerant of
the physical and mental hell that comes with a hang over – I think
I will give it a miss and bounce on my mini trampoline instead.

So I do find it frustrating when companies insist on fixed working
hours. Especially since I have had the good fortune of breaking away
from the traditional 9-5 route and am more used to directing my own
time and working when creativity is there.

And I know I am not the only one. A friend is doing some contract
work at a rather old fashioned organization. He is used to working
with modern, high-tech companies and despairs at the Stone-age
mentality of his new colleagues. He rather amusingly described their
use of email: β€œThey come up to me at my desk and tell me that they
have sent me an email. They then hand me a printed version of the
email they have just sent!” Funny but insanely frustrating! So this
organization is really not in the ‘problems are more likely to be
solved away from the computer’ camp and have even bothered to
reprimand him for not doing all his work chained to a desk.

So what you may ask, has prompted this public criticism of modern
work life? Well, today I am not working in the office. Today I am
free to go to and from the computer depending on my mood and my state
of creativity. No prodding sticks. No need to ‘fake work’ to show
that I am in fact thinking about the problem and not just aimlessly
staring out of the window. You know the ‘I am actually working’ look
don’t you? The frown of concentration; deliberately talking to your
self; writing something down and dramatically crossing it out again;
stabbing the air with a pointed finger and giving a satisfied nod?
You don’t know it? It’s a good tactic to use when stapled to your
desk until some form of inspiration strikes. Alternatively, you could
subscribe to the following idea which is slightly less bonkers and
far more pleasant:

May all
people, who has completed a major piece of work
and who soon are
going to sleep
may all souls who for a moment
feel themselves
to be without inspiration and motivation
may all people who find
the air humid, the time moving slowly
and the mood difficult to
grant themselves a good half liter of hot
they will experience a miracle.

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1775-1826)
magistrate and gastronome

What ever you are doing – have a great day. Eat chocolate. Be